Richard Buxton: Firmino is Liverpool's unsung hero
Reds forward's positional shift has allowed Salah and Mane to flourish
Mohamed Salah remains the alpha male of Liverpool's strike force.
No one will be able to unseat the Egyptian - he's No. 1, so why try harder?
But, behind the power of the Anfield throne, is an even greater force at work.
Roberto Firmino is proving to be the Reds' personal Ark of the Covenant.
Just as in the Indiana Jones movie franchise, no matter how hard opposing defenders try, they cannot bring themselves to look away from the forward's gleaming smile as he inflicts maximum damage.
|PARIS ST GERMAIN
Ahead of tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) Champions League encounter with Paris Saint-Germain, questions linger over whether a Brazilian talisman can deliver on the biggest stage.
How Les Parisiens must wish that Neymar could produce an ounce of what his compatriot offers Juergen Klopp's side.
They have first-hand experience of it, too. A hard-fought point was in their grasp during September's Group C opener before Firmino produced a hammer blow in stoppage-time.
Firmino knows that the Kop's front line is not big enough for himself, Salah and Sadio Mane to fight over.
Only one will ultimately prevail and earn the unconditional adoration that follows.
His selflessness even allowed Salah to briefly overtake his erstwhile tally of 38 EPL goals for Liverpool during last weekend's comfortable win over Watford.
That the 27-year-old has not plundered more, despite enjoying a two-season head start, tells its own story.
Managers, particularly ones like Klopp, now want their strikers to be more than an archetypal outlet for goals.
That has to be blended with attributes that are more giving to the overall team than their own personal conversion rates.
In that respect, Firmino is fulfilling his remit.
He is not the first Liverpool player to assume an understated role in the grander scheme.
Playing second fiddle, or even third in Firmino's case, has historically proven benefits.
Fernando Torres enjoyed his most prolific spell when playing off the shoulder of Steven Gerrard.
History has remembered the former captain's contribution far more fondly than a player whose defection to Chelsea shattered both hearts and illusions on the Anfield terraces.
Where Gerrard pushed forward positionally, however, Firmino's role has become inverted.
Liverpool's previous totem did not always receive the due credit in his playing days.
If goals were not raining down in a one-man salvage mission, his influence often became overlooked.
Firmino could be forgiven for wondering whether a similar pattern is emerging, after paving the way for Salah and Mane to combine as the former opened the scoring at Vicarage Road.
It was an overdue restart to a cohesive understanding that had ground to a halt since the opening three games of the new campaign.
Four months on, Liverpool's front three appear to have rediscovered the mojo that eluded them in successive Champions League away ties.
Klopp deserves the plaudits for another unorthodox tactical shift. He reaped similar rewards by deploying James Milner at left-back at a time when successors were hardly forthcoming.
The German coach claimed that around 20 of his compatriots and fellow coaches had raved off Firmino's performance in his new role against Fulham before the international break.
Should he inspire Liverpool to a memorable night in the French capital, an orderly queue of admirers will again be forming.